Activists expect higher Hispanic turnout |

Activists expect higher Hispanic turnout

Veronica Whitney

EAGLE COUNTY – Following trends from the last two elections, more Hispanic voters are expected to show up at the polls in Eagle County on Nov. 2., said Debbie Marquez, a chairwoman of the Eagle County Democratic Party and member of the Hispanic Democratic National Committee, an organization that focuses on Latino voters’ issues.

“We added a whole lot of voters,” Marquez said. “From the 2000 to the 2002 election, we added 672 voters in Eagle County. Assuming that’s a trend, we’ll have more voters this election.”

Although there are no official numbers tracking Hispanic voters in the county, according to Voter Contract Services, which provides information on a variety of voter demographics, in 2002 there were 1,916 registered voters with Spanish surnames in Eagle County. That was an increase from the 2000 election, when 1,244 voters with Spanish surnames were registered.

Polly Baca, a former Democratic state senator and director of Latin American Research and Service Agency – also known as LARASA – said participation should be high.

“We will have a very high turnout of Hispanic voters this year with 40,000 new Hispanic voters registered in Colorado,” Baca said. “That indicates a real interest in voting this year. We should encourage people to vote. And, if there are any questions in regards to somebody’s identity, they can cast a provisional ballot.”

Data shows an additional 2,800 non-registered, but eligible Latino voters, Marquez added.

According to the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, there were 19,229 registered voters in the county in 2000 and 19,316 in 2002. About one quarter of the population in the county is of Hispanic or Latino background, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

“We don’t keep track of the ethnic background of voters,” said Teak Simonton, the county clerk and recorder. “Unless the law requires it, there’s no way we can do it. It would be profiling.”

In terms of the issues, Marquez said the concerns of the Hispanics aren’t very different from the rest of the population.

“Our surveys of the Latino community show that in Colorado the No. 1 issue is the economy and jobs,” she said. “The second issue is education and the third is health care.”

“An anger for the Bush policies” has mobilized Hispanics to register to vote, Baca added.

“Four years ago we had a safer community. I blame president Bush for putting the country in an unsafe position,” Baca said. “Also, the war in Iraq has drained a lot of money out of our economy and therefore, a lot of programs that help people with fewer resources.

“Bush has been the worst president we’ve ever had in regards to the Latino community,” Baca added.

Both Marquez and Baca agreed many Hispanics who weren’t planning to vote will cast ballots this election to support state Attorney General Ken Salazar, a Democrat of Hispanic descent who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Vail Colorado

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